12 of us went from St. Patrick’s Murfreesboro to serve at an Anglican Children’s Home and to help with a clean water project. To summarize the trip, it could not have gone better. We worked hard, we laughed harder and we had our lives touched in new ways. Here is how I experienced it.
I wish that I could tell you about the view we had of Honduras as our jet came in for a landing but I cannot. I was in the last seat on the plane, next to a windowless bulkhead, on the last row next to the toilets. I had several conversations with myself about how a claustrophobic panic attack would negatively impact the team, so standing up and exiting the plane was my first highlight of the trip.
The airport betrayed the fact that we had landed in a third world country. (I will come back to this later). It was hot and noisy and unclean by first world standards. The personnel however came across as courteous and professional. I had recently had a shot of rooster comb in my right knee to relieve the bone on bone pain and so I was using a cane. Between the cane and my clerical collar I was moved to the front of the line to go through customs, leaving the team behind and opening myself up for some good natured ribbing.
We exited customs to met by the missionary Mike. (He is the gentleman kneeling on the front row of the picture above. Great guy! More about him later). Just outside he had two vehicles. One was an old black four by four where our luggage was piled and strapped down. The other was a large passenger van that sort of fit us all in it. I think that we must have looked like a circus clown car when we would make a stop and a dozen gringoes came pouring out.
Mike gave us a quick tour of San Pedro Sula, the town in which we landed, and which has a reputation of being one of the most dangerous towns in the world. Most of the violence is related to the drug cartels. Next we headed for the mountains where the Children’s Home was located. Turning off the main road we left pavement and for the next few miles climbed a dirt road into the mountains. Their habit is to drive on the wrong side of the road, presumably to avoid the washboards and ruts on the right side of the road. Then when they see an approaching vehicle they swerve to the right, sometimes at the last moment, to avoid a head on collision. This is all done while also negotiating around people on horseback, animals wandering the roads, pedestrians and buzzing motor cycles. Mike has been there almost 10 years and so it is second nature to him. Consequently he spent much of the time talking to me while looking at me rather than at the road. I in the meantime was making new and permanent finger indentations on his passenger seat.
The drive was over an hour until we came to the community in which the Children’s Home is situated. All the streets were dirt and there were few cars. People ride bicycles or animals or motorcycles or they simply walk. We met one gentleman who was 85 years old and each day he walks 5 miles up the mountain to sell cilantro and returns the 5 miles to his village when he has completed his business.
The homes in this community were made of painted stucco over cinderblocks. Most of the windows were without glass. They have outdoor kitchens containing ovens fueled by wood. Nearby is a “pila” which is an outdoor reservoir that contains rainwater and a washboard embedded into concrete block that they use to wash their clothes. When we would walk into the community adults would peer at us from their homes and children would come outside to observe the strangers. I never felt threatened just the object of a peaked curiosity.
The Children’s Home was an inspiration. To see how God used this one family, in a relatively short amount of time, to accomplish so much was nearly incomprehensible. Within the compound was a guest house, a dining hall, a home for the girls, a home for the boys, a home for the missionaries, a home used as an office, a home for the Honduran director’s family, a computer room, a psychologists office, and a charming chapel in the style of a Spanish mission. The grounds were immaculately kept and the landscaping, done by Mike, was on a professional level. The whole compound was behind locked gates and guards and guard dogs were employed at night. Mike said that the safely of the kids was his chief priority.
Our living arrangements were 6 men on bunkbeds in one room sharing one sink and one toilet. We had a shower but no hot water which meant that strange high pitched sounds resounded during evening showers. The women also had a room with bunkbeds. One married couple, Andy and Amy, shared what we called the honeymoon sweet. There was also a large room in the guesthouse where we gathered each day for Morning and Evening Prayer as well as discussion time with Mike. There was no heat or air-conditioning but we didn’t need it because the nights were cool and we worked outside during the days. The views of the mountain ranges and particularly of the sunrise were breathtaking.
Why were we there and what did we do? To be continued.